By Nick Bowen


Peter McClennan’s First Light leading the spinnaker fleet out of Narragansett Bay. © Nick Bowen

The Twenty Hundred Club had their fourth race of the season on Saturday, August 1. The second of the club’s two destination races, the Block Island Race starts just south of Rose Island near the G3 Gong, takes the sailors about 17.1 nautical miles (nm) south to buoy 1BI just north of Block Island. This mark is 3.5 nm north of the finish mark, R “2” at the entrance to New Harbor. The total distance for the race is 21.2 nm.

Sixteen boats competed in three classes, with ten Spinnaker boats split between two classes and six Cruising Class boats. The forecast for the day was for morning northerly winds at 5-10 knots and afternoon southerlies at 5-10 knots. High tide was at 6:40 AM, which meant the boats would have a favorable tide all the way to Block. Shortly before the 10:30 AM start, the winds started dropping in speed. The race committee made the decision to start the race because we could at least count on the tide moving the fleet towards where the southerly breeze would form. Three of the six Cruising Class boats did not gauge the wind and tide correctly and found themselves south of the starting line when the gun went off. It would take those boats over an hour to claw their way back to the starting line, fighting the strong current in very light winds.

Around 11:30 AM, the lead boats were near Hammersmith Farm in Newport when one by one, you could see their spinnakers get blown into their masts as the wind made a very abrupt shift from north to south. From that point it was about a five-hour beat to Block in winds of 12 knots, a favorable current and a perfectly blue sky. First Light, a Class40 skippered by Peter McClennan, was the first to finish at 4:03 PM. Gary Venable’s Freedom 30 SD Serendipity, one of the Cruising Class boats that got trapped south of the starting line, pulled up the rear of the fleet at 6:19 PM (they would correct to fourth of six boats).

The club held a COVID-safe barbeque on the beach just west of The Oar’s picnic area, with 67 sailors enjoying the event. Our strategy for COVID safety was to ask boat crews to cluster in areas that were at safe distances and send single crew members to collect food. Sunday was a rest day for the sailors. With a mix of mopeding, biking, swimming and hiking, it was a well-deserved rest from the sailing.

Monday brought a southerly at 10-12 knots, prefect for a downwind run all the way home to Newport. Boats with asymmetric spinnakers needed to take a long jibe to Point Judith before heading back towards the mouth of the bay. As typically happens on these hot August days, by the time the fleet got back towards Castle Hill in Newport they were seeing gusts up to 20 knots. First Light was the hot rod of the day, finishing with an elapsed time of two hours, 57 minutes. Gary Venable, obviously frustrated by his Saturday start, reported boat speeds of up to 8 knots and finished twenty-three minutes ahead of the nearest Cruising Class competitor.

To learn more about the Twenty Hundred Club and to register for our unique and challenging races, please visit ■

Nick Bowen is the Commodore of the Twenty Hundred Club and races his Lyman-Morse e33 on Narragansett Bay. He can be reached at